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Am J Med. 1989 Oct;87(4):382-8.

Autonomic influence on cardiovascular performance in diabetic subjects.

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University of Louisville, School of Medicine, Kentucky.



Cardiomyopathy, coronary artery atherosclerosis, or autonomic neuropathy may affect the cardiovascular performance of the diabetic patient. To evaluate the role of parasympathetic nervous system activity on cardiovascular performance, 25 diabetic subjects who lacked symptoms, signs, or objective measurements of ischemia or cardiomyopathy were studied.


Diabetic subjects were classified according to their RR variation, an index of cardiac parasympathetic nervous system activity. Fourteen diabetic subjects had a normal RR variation of greater than 30 (D-NOR), and 11 diabetic patients had an abnormal RR variation of less than 20 (D-ABN). Fifteen age- and weight-matched, healthy, nondiabetic subjects (NOR) constituted the control group. All subjects had oxygen consumption, multigated acquisition determination of cardiac output, and work product measured before and during supine bicycle maximum exercise testing.


There was no difference in the resting cardiac output among the groups. Resting work product, however, was greatest in the D-ABN group when compared with performance in the other two groups (D-ABN: 11,500 +/- 800; D-NOR: 9,000 +/- 600; NOR: 8,700 +/- 400; p less than 0.0025). This was due to an increase in both heart rate (p less than 0.025) and systolic blood pressure (p less than 0.015). In the diabetic subjects, there was an inverse relationship between the RR variation and resting work product (r = 0.47, n = 25, p less than 0.005). In response to exercise, the percent increase in cardiac output at matched percent maximum oxygen uptake was greatest in the NOR, D-NOR, and D-ABN groups, respectively (analysis of variance, p less than 0.01). In the diabetic subjects, there was a significant relationship between the RR variation and the maximum percent change in cardiac output (r = 0.41, n = 25, p less than 0.02). Compared with the NOR group, the maximum increase in work product was impaired in diabetic subjects (p less than 0.002) and not different between the D-NOR and D-ABN groups.


The increase in resting work product and the poor cardiac output responses to exercise in the D-ABN group are due to a decrease in cardiac parasympathetic nervous system activity and can be suggested by an abnormal RR variation. This index of parasympathetic nervous system activity can help the physician identify that subset of diabetic patients that may need special consideration when exercise training is prescribed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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